Between Pinterest and Fab and Fancy and Svpply and Wanelo and Lyst and many other similar startups, the social-meets-design-meets-commerce space is nothing if not crowded. But a couple of former MySpacers believe they can push through the pack with Uncovet, an e-commerce site rolling out to the public today.
Developed out of the Betaworks-like technology studio Science Inc., which was founded by former MySpace CEO Mike Jones and recently backed the much-buzzed-about Dollar Shave Club, Uncovet says it takes a design-centric, data-driven approach to helping shoppers find the products most suited to their style.
Jones said the site, which was co-founded by former MySpace creative director Heather Lipner, reflects their understanding of action-oriented design and how to leverage social data around content.
“We all came away with a strong understanding of social and how content moves through a network virally,” he said. To that end, Uncovet not only uses social data to recommend products to users, it uses data help members earn status and discounts by sharing their top picks with friends.
Lipner said the site searches for trending items from new designers and top brands from across the Web and then delivers a curated, themed collection of items to each user in a personalized daily e-mail.
As members share items on the site with Facebook, Pinterest, Svpply, Twitter and other networks, Uncovet analyzes the social data to create a style profile for each user. It then maps that against what it calls its “style graph” to make personalized recommendations (think of a lighterweight version of the “taste graph” Hunch uses to make recommendations on eBay and you’ve got the basic idea).
“We’re studying trends … and working hard to build a style graph so that our recommendations are really smart,” Lipner said.
Users’ style profiles are informed by products they purchase and share, as well as items they’ve liked on Facebook, from fashion brands to magazines, such as Wired or Nylon, she said. Uncovet also uses social data to encourage users to recommend products to friends. When members sign in, the site suggests friends who might be good Uncovet candidates and, on product pages, it recommends friends who might be interested in those specific items.
As friends join the site, users earn status as members of Uncovet calls the “Inner Circle,” gaining discounts and credits along the way — from a $30 credit for getting 10 friends to join to an additional 8 percent discount for bringing in 50 friends.
Rewarding members for recruiting and sharing with friends is an interesting, although not especially new, idea. The London-based Shopcade similarly lets users earn points as friends join the site and shop. In a slightly different way, the Kleiner Perkins-backed social commerce site Lockerz awards points to users for sharing content, which they can then redeem for discounts in the site’s store. While leveraging social networks for commerce can be powerful, if users aren’t incentivized the right way or encouraged to share in the right environments, they run the risk of potentially annoying online friends who might think that they’re being overloaded with product recommendations.
For readers interested in checking out the site, Uncovet is offering a $15 discount to those who enter “GIGAOM” at checkout.